Only one team has managed to beat the Kamehameha softball team in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu this season.
The third-ranked Warriors will get a chance to avenge that loss when they host No. 6 Maryknoll in a semifinal game of the league's single-elimination tournament Friday afternoon.
Kamehameha, which won the ILH's first round to secure a berth in the state tournament, is the top seed in the six-team tournament that got underway Wednesday.
Fourth-seeded Maryknoll opened up the tournament with a 9-5 win over fifth-seed PAC-5 Wednesday. It was their fourth win in five games since an three-game losing streak midway through the season.
"I think we started off hot then kind of cooled off in the middle and we're starting to pick it up again," Spartans coach John Uekawa said.
Uekawa said his team's 14-4 win over the Warriors in their third game of the season was a monumental victory for the program.
"I don't think in the history of my twelve years (at Maryknoll) and the twenty-four games we've played against them have we ever 10-run ruled a Kamehameha team, so we knew that we had the firepower. We've just got to stay in the game for seven innings," Uekawa said.
Kamehameha played that game without ace pitcher Rayla Jacobs-Kea, who missed several games this year with a shoulder injury she sustained in a 12-1 win over Punahou two games into the regular season.
Two days after the win over the Buffanblu, the Warriors tied Iolani, 4-4. The very next day they took one on the chin against the Spartans.
"I think a lot of it comes down to having Rayla healthy," Kamehameha coach James Millwood said. "She's still not fully healthy. We're keeping her pitch count down in practices to thirty, forty pitches just to keep her fresh and try to build her up for the state tournament."
Millwood has used a number of different players to try and fill the void left behind by Jacobs-Kea.
"We were usually pitching-by-committee with Gabby Tyrell, Reece Mokuau and Alyssa Mahoe," Millwood said. "That's two freshmen and one sophomore. Alyssa and Gabby are position players — they're not pitchers — but they said they would be willing to help out and we were just looking for someone to throw strikes and keep us in ball games. That's how we stayed in the next four or five games before we got Rayla back."
Since the loss to Maryknoll, the Warriors have reeled off eight straight victories. They closed out the regular season Saturday by rallying past the Spartans for an 11-10 win Saturday.
"It was very close," Millwood said. "It was kind of back and forth and then we had a really bad inning where they took the lead on us. It was our senior game and win or lose, we wanted to play our seniors and finish up strong."
Kamehameha led by two runs early on, but fell behind 10-5 after five innings. However, it went on to score the final six runs of the game — including five in the bottom of the seventh — to walk off with the win despite committing six errors.
"Hitting-wise we score a lot of runs and defensively we make the plays, but we kind of get ourselves in trouble with pitching," Uekawa said. "We walk a lot of girls and pitching is probably eighty percent of the game and if your pitcher is off, then you have to score a lot of runs. We scored a lot of runs again that second time against Kamehameha, but we made a couple of errors and we gave up a lot of walks and before you know it, they scored a lot of runs."
Kamehameha leads the lILH in hits (128), runs (115) and batting average (.388).
Warriors' junior first baseman Dallas Millwood (.538 BA, 21 hits, 27 RBI) is one of the top bats in the state, while senior outfielder Alana Cobb-Adams (ILH-best 20 runs scored this season) has been a table-setter at the top of the lineup.
"Kamehameha is a very dangerous team, which is a tribute to their coaching, but they also have a wealth of talent," Uekawa said. "From top to bottom, they can really start a rally and keep it going."
Maryknoll's 124 hits and 108 runs rank second behind the Warriors, and its .347 batting average is third best in the league.
Like Cobb-Adams for the Warriors, Kanoe Tanigawa has proved to be a tough out at the leadoff position for the Spartans this year. The junior shortstop is tied for the league-lead in hits (21) to go with 15 RBI and 15 runs scored. Her .438 batting average is the eighth in the ILH.
"I think this is one of the best hitting teams I've ever had," Uekawa said. "We've got a stellar top five batters right now. Kanoe Tanigawa is killing it, she's just unbelievable right now."
Uekawa also praised the play of senior left fielder Kamalei Labasan (.413 BA, 19 hits, 14 runs), junior center fielder Nohea Hee (.405 BA, 17 hits, 13 RBI) and freshman third baseman Sydney Kamakaiwi, who took a batted ball off her face in a game against Punahou three weeks ago.
"She missed a few practices, as a precaution, but she didn't miss any games. No concussion, no nothing," Uekawa said of Kamakaiwi. "A few days after her got hit she was right back out there — black-and-blue eye and all. She has that no-fear attitude and she's just all heart."
Millwood said pitch accuracy will be of utmost importance Saturday.
"Maryknoll is very athletic. They have a solid pitcher and the've got hitters," Millwood said. "Nohea Hee is the one left-handed bat in their starting lineup — and she's a solid bat — but they have a lot of righties that can put the bat on the ball and if you don't hit your locations they're going to make you pay."
First pitch between the Spartans (8-5) and Warriors (10-1-1) is set for 4 p.m. The winner advances to Monday's single-elimination tournament final.
If Kamehameha does not win the tournament, it will meet the tournament winner for the overall ILH title and the seeded state tournament berth Wednesday.
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